Conflict prevention and the role of women
plenary session Wednesday 23 June 2004
On behalf of my group, I thank Ms Cliveti for her report. The report observes “Conflict is a gendered activity”, and says that strengthening the role of women will decrease the possibility of conflicts. It is true that males dominate politics, the armies and the military industry, but it is questionable whether they are defending their male identity or other interests such as oil, ethnic nationalism and religious fundamentalism. I think that the latter is the case. On the other hand, it is also questionable whether, when women have full access to political and military power, war will end. Wars between states, military interventions and struggles against dictatorship – all those different conflicts have different backgrounds and different solutions. We cannot compare the military intervention of the United States in Iraq to the fight for freedom of the African National Congress in South Africa. The tools of prevention are very different, and it is a shame that the report does not deal with that important point.
The struggle against war has a rich history, although sadly it has not always been successful. In the anti-war movement in the first part of the nineteenth century, the third way movement against the Nato-Russia pact in the 1950s and the broad peace movement against cruise missiles in the 1980s, men and women, churches and trade unions and many non-governmental organisations worked together. The prevention of conflict and the struggle against war require a broad coalition, in which the peace-building activities of women can play an important part. The report seems unaware of the absolute need for such a broad coalition, but it contains many good proposals, such as the proposal to encourage and support multicultural and trans-border activities. There is much best practice from which we can learn.
The report identifies the increase in military spending as a major reason for instability and conflict. The yearly cost of the toys for the boys is $839 billion. A quarter of that huge amount would be enough to provide decent housing, health care and education for all citizens, and it is a pity that there is no recommendation to that effect. The report also underlines the need to strengthen the position of women in all bodies and forums dealing with decision-making, peace negotiations and so on. Of course that is necessary, but it has a wider context than the important subject of conflict prevention. During the next session of the Assembly I hope to discuss Mr Mooney’s report on women’s participation in elections. It makes many proposals for the strengthening of women’s position in politics.
The draft recommendation says that the Committee of Ministers should “encourage and support… the creation of women-only political parties”. As I have said before, I do not think that a women-only approach is the best way in which to prevent conflict. Moreover, there is no proposal for governments to support the creation of such political parties, and I have tabled an amendment for that reason.